A Tech Geek’s Delight

[Note: This post is likely to only appeal to web design geeks like me.]

An important part of any genealogical or historical research is offering proper footnotes and citations. Thus, in the last several months I’ve made a concerted effort to start adding footnotes to the biographical entries on CGS, and though we have merely made a dent in that effort, it continues full steam ahead.

But the web design geeks out there (like myself) will know that footnotes, which are well suited for word processors like Microsoft Word, do not always translate well into web pages. This page gives a good account of the common HTML options available to people hoping to incorporate footnotes into their web publishing. The most common method, which this website used until very recently, is to simply put footnotes in brackets (e.g. [3]) with the number linking to the corresponding footnote below, and the footnote at the bottom likewise linking back to the original number in the main text.

Although this system is straight forward and relatively easy to do, each footnote has to be manually entered, both in the main body and at the bottom. Therefore anytime additional footnotes are added in the middle of the page, all of the subsequent footnotes have to be re-numbered…twice, once in the text and then again at the bottom. As the number of footnotes on a page grows this can get to be a big pain.

Therefore I set out on an exhaustive search to find a better web design answer, and I even considered hiring a web programmer. I wanted to find a script which allowed me to enter the footnote once and then have the full footnote at the bottom automatically generated, just as it’s done when editing a Wikipedia entry. Luckily, I eventually found this post published by Brand Spanking New. There the author offers a javascript which provides an incredibly easy way to incorporate footnotes that are automatically numbered just as I wanted. Citations are handled “inline” and double entries are no longer necessary. Any updates and additions are handled seamlessly and with little effort. You can see the new system in action on Joshua Clyburn’s biography.

As I noted at the outset, this find will only appeal to web design geeks like me, but given that it took me well over a week to find the right solution, I wanted to publish it here in case other web wanderers are looking for something similar. There appears to be very few adequate solutions for footnoting on the web, but this is certainly one of them.

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